Sola gratia

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The expression sola gratia (Latin for solely through grace ) denotes a basic element of the Reformation doctrine of justification and is a theological principle of the churches that emerged from the Reformation . It expresses the conviction that man achieves salvation or eternal life solely thanks to the grace of God. He cannot earn it through his actions.
Biblical basis for this idea in Romans 11.6  LUT , Eph 2.8  LUT , Acts 15:11  LUT u. a. to find.

Schematic representation of Luther's doctrine of justification , modified from P. Blickle (1992)


The principle of sola gratia manifests itself in particular in Luther's rejection of the indulgence trade , which is related to the treasure of grace . The idea that people are judged on the basis of their good and bad deeds perverts in Luther's view in the indulgence trade, where every bad deed is outweighed by a subsequent good one. Man does not know God's “evaluation criteria” on the last day and therefore cannot engage in such a trade.

Saving thought

The theological idea of ​​a sola gratia should bring out the higher position of God and explicitly make believers aware that they cannot collect “points” in order to secure a place in the hereafter. God's grace is neither arbitrary nor describable. Luther leaves the question of the procedure for a God-given salvation open, since he cannot recognize comparable ideas from the Bible ( sola scriptura ). It only expresses itself in the respect that God will look to the heart of the individual and that his faith represents and will represent the most important thing for God ( sola fide ). According to Luther, it is illegitimate for humans to have expectations of God. Only God himself decides about the salvation of the individual.

Revelation Thought

However, the term sola gratia also deals with the subject of revelation. Luther believes that only revelation given by God is accessible to man and that it must not be influenced by church teachings ( sola scriptura ).

Relation to the other "solos"

In addition to sola gratia , the Reformation churches contain the principles of sola scriptura , sola fide and solus Christ . These principles are interrelated. Only the union of these “solae” leads, according to Luther's view, to the faith given by God, which is based on Scripture. Luther's view of sola fide and sola scriptura is thus contrary to the Roman Catholic faith. It is true that even according to Catholic teaching, human salvation comes solely from God's grace for the sake of Jesus Christ . The decisive difference, however, is that, according to Catholic teaching, man is empowered through the grace of God to participate in his salvation and can thus also earn an increase in grace and eternal reward ( cf.Council of Trent , Decree on Justification, Canon 32 ). The Protestant Church teaches, however, that redemption is due to God's grace alone as a gift not due and is not earned through human efforts (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1996). According to Catholic teaching, salvation requires free consent and cooperation with the undeserved grace of God.

Sola gratia and sola fide in relation to each other:

Sola gratia describes how God encounters man: God's justified anger against all sin ( Röm 1,18ff  EU ) does not result in God turning away from man or leaving him to his fate: “The first part of grace is : to have a gracious God who does good so that we may be in the bosom of mercy and trust in the certain promises given to us by his grace ... Non est deus furoris, irae, sed gratiae. ”( It is not a God of rage, of anger, but of grace. ) (WA ( Weimar Edition ) Volume 40 II, page 363, to Psalm 51: 4f; 1532 ).

Sola fide, on the other hand, describes man's only appropriate response to God's grace: accepting it by faith. The concept of grace basically excludes that humans could work for it or earn it. Augustine had already pointed this out with his sentence "gratia ... nisis gratis est, gratia non est" ( a grace that is not free is no grace ). In a sermon on July 29, 1519 in Leipzig, Luther explained that man can only experience God's grace or God as gracious God in faith: “It is therefore important that you know whether you have received God's grace. Then you have to know how to be with God if your conscience is to be cheerful and exist differently. When someone like that doubts it and doesn't firmly believe that he has a gracious God, He doesn't have him either. As he believes, so has he. (WA II, 249). "

But when grace and faith are combined, the human heart finds peace with God: “... this grace finally works in truth the peace of the heart, so that man, healed of his corruption, also feels that he has a gracious God. "(WA VIII, 106; 1521 )

Rapprochement of the churches

In the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999, the justification “solely by grace” became known as a common statement of faith: “Together we confess: Only by grace in believing in the saving act of Christ, not on the basis of our merit , We are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts and enables us and calls us to good works. "

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Blickle : The Reformation in the Empire. 2nd edition, UTB 1181, Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-8001-2626-5 , p. 44
  2. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church - IntraText. Retrieved August 20, 2019 .
  3. ^ D. Martin Luther's works. Critical Edition (WA), Volume 40, Second Section. In: Weimar edition. Dr. Karl Drescher, 1914, accessed October 3, 2017 .
  4. Friedrich Loofs : Guide to the study of the history of dogma, 1st and 2nd part: Old Church, Middle Ages and Catholicism to the present . 6th edition edited by Kurt Aland . Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1959. p. 308.
  5. Quotes from the WA according to Emanuel Hirsch : Aid book for studying dogmatics . 3. Edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1958. p. 128; 155f.
  6. Joint declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the doctrine of justification. October 31, 1999, accessed on February 27, 2017 (point 15).